By Anthony St. Clair

From clams to crabs to tuna, the good eating of Oregon seafood is as close as the Siuslaw River in Florence. Where the wide blue waters roll along on their last few miles before meeting the Pacific Ocean, the river’s channel and mud flats become a buffet for those wanting to harvest their own seafood bounty. Or, if you prefer to entrust the catching to pros, you can buy freshly caught fish and shellfish right off the boat in the Florence area or from expert fishmongers in Eugene.

Crabs and crabbing

It’s a good thing Oregon Dungeness crab can be caught year-round. With its mild flavor and slight sweetness, Dungeness is coveted on tables throughout the state, especially in popular summertime dishes such as ceviche, tacos, crab cakes, bisque, or even eggs Benedict.

In Eugene, Fisherman’s Market owner and commercial fisherman Ryan Rogers seeks out Dungeness throughout the year, from virtually every point on the Oregon Coast. Once loaded in his pickup — a Ford F-250 fueled by recycled frying oil from the Market’s near-constant orders of fish and chips — the Dungeness is back in Eugene within a few hours, ready to be cooked and sold.

For those wanting to catch their own, a distinct crabbing zone begins on the Siuslaw, about a mile inland from Florence’s Old Town, extending all the way to the North and South jetties. Local sporting goods shops sell crab cages, rings, and other accessories. Hint: Many Oregonians swear by raw chicken legs as ideal crab bait.

When catching Dungeness, only male crabs at least 5-3/4 inches across the back can be kept (see our Resources box below for how-to links, plus identifying what to keep and what to throw back). The daily limit for Dungeness is 12 crabs per person. In addition to Dungeness, the public can also catch up to 24 red rock crabs (any size or sex), and up to 35 invasive European green crabs (any size or sex).

Zoey Haramboure, right, and Carter Johnson of Aberdeen look for razor clam shows in the sand at Twin Harbors Beach State Park in Westport, Wash. on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (Photo by Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Clams and clamming

Mike Bones was a child when he saw that getting a mess of clams didn’t require fancy tools.

“With a bit of shallow water, my dad used to dig up clams with a toilet plunger.” (A clean one, mind you.)

Nowadays, along with his work cultivating rhododendrons at Bones Nursery in Florence, Bones still loves clamming. He also leads tours to help people dig their own. Mussels, soft-shell clams, and invasive purple varnish clams abound throughout the Florence area and the Siuslaw. Collectively, they might also be called “bay clams,” which typically means any clam other than a razor clam. While bay clams are dug out of the mud flats along the Siuslaw’s low tide channel, mussels cover seaside rocks and can be twisted off by hand (while wearing protective gloves; also immediately remove the “beard” that anchored the mussel to the rock).

“People don’t realize that it can be easy to shuck mussels,” says Bones. “A sharp knife is all you need. For mussels, just shuck and fry.”

Minus tides, or extreme low tides, can be ideal for “mud clamming,” as locals call it, along the Siuslaw. However, any low tide during the summer typically sees water levels drop enough for excellent clamming along the river’s mud flats.

“Watch the tides,” explains Bones. “An hour before low tide and an hour after low tide is great timing for soft-shells.” For mussels, only go for the hour before low tide, he adds. “Every hole you see is a clam. The bigger the hole, the bigger the clam, and I look for clam holes that are at least as big as my finger.”

For tools, a razor clam shovel is generally bent and wide. For mud clams, though, Bones suggests a narrower spade shovel. Top spots for clamming in Florence include the South Jetty docks and flat, where purple varnish clams are common along both sides of the crab dock (which is also available seasonally for crabbing). Find soft-shell clams on the flats just east of Old Town near where Mussel Creek runs into the river near the Port of Siuslaw Campground. Look for gravel pullouts to the east of where Highway 126 passes over the Siuslaw’s north fork, just before heading into Florence itself. The North Fork flat tends to have one of the area’s highest concentrations of soft-shell clams.

Digging down around 6 inches can generally get you to Siuslaw clams. While tidal razor clams can move quickly, bay clams stay put, making them easier to dig out. Each clammer needs their own container and must dig their own (but can share shovels). Limits vary by species, ranging from 15 per day for razor clams to 72 per day for purple varnish.

“It’s a great outing for a family,” says Mike Bones. “It’s affordable. You’re outside. It’s fun. And you get to eat what you catch.”

Bones loves his soft-shells fried in bacon grease, and says they make a great chowder. He also suggests combining a cracked egg, shelled clams, chopped onion, and other ingredients you like, plus flour for binding, and “blend them till they’re like a hotcake batter.”

Straight from the boat

Digging or catching your own isn’t always an option. Luckily, straight-from-the-boat establishments like Novelli’s in Florence have your back. This second-generation family business serves up chowder and freshly caught seafood from the Florence docks.

“Tuna starts swimming by in summer, and you can buy it right off the boat,” says Novelli’s owner, Danny “D.J.” Reynolds.

From whole fish to cuts, folks like Reynolds can get you what you need. Different boats have different services and charge varying fees, such as cleaning fees to prep your catch.

“If you’re buying right off the boat, you can ask us anything about the catch, storage, you name it,” says Reynolds. “People are completely open with customers.”

Your local fish markets

The Eugene/Springfield area’s proximity to the coast means that Oregon-caught seafood is close to home, too. With year-round favorites and seasonal highlights, Eugene Fisherman’s Market is a reliable, locally owned source of Dungeness crab, halibut, Chinook salmon, and more. Along with gaining national recognition from its appearance on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” Fisherman’s Market is locally famous for its fish and chips. Plus, its companion Fisherman’s Kitchen offers ready-to-cook meals featuring wild-caught seafood in an ever-expanding trove of innovative house recipes.

With its Willamette Street and Coburg Road locations, Newman’s Fish Company also offers fresh-caught seafood, as well as house-preserved smoked salmon and pickled specialty fish.

When your summer travels take you down the coast to North Bend, Clausen’s Oysters is an ideal stop for oysters year-round. With 600 farmed acres in Coos Bay, Clausen’s is Oregon’s largest commercial oyster farm, specializing in Pacific oysters and sweet Kumamoto oysters. Along with their on-site store, Clausen’s restaurant serves up a specialty menu, from oysters on the half-shell to an oyster po-boy sandwich, complete with chicken-fried oysters, garlic pickles, and remoulade.

Whether caught or bought, Oregon’s summer seafood is perfect for any meal. The freshest seafood, and the adventure of finding it yourself, is just a short trip away.


Basic boiled live crabs

Eugene Fisherman’s Market

For live crabs that have been refrigerated for up to 12 hours, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. To prevent getting pinched, grip crabs from the rear area between the legs, and set them headfirst into the boiling water. (Ladle out excess water as needed). Once water returns to a boil, cover pan and reduce to a simmer. For 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-pound crabs, cook 15 minutes, or 20 minutes for 3-pound crabs. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Clam Dip

Mike Bones

6 ounces cooked, minced clams
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces sour cream
3 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Blend all ingredients together. Chill. Serve with your choice of chips, crackers, or cut vegetables.


Before you go, call the Shellfish Biotoxin Hotline to check where and if it’s safe to crab or clam: 800/448-2474​

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website has a lot of information about crabbing and clamming in the Siuslaw River and how to get started crabbing and clamming

Where to crab &

Start Crabbing:

Start Clamming:

Eugene Fisherman’s Market

Newman’s Fish Company

Boat Slip A13, Bay St and Nopal St., Florence

Clausen’s Oysters

Mike Bones’s Clamming Tours
[email protected]